How the Barber-Surgeon Became a Woman; Gender Coding and Conflict 1700-1900

Maria Sjöberg, University of Gothenburg

In 1752 the Seraphimer lasaret was opened and it is considered Sweden's first modern hospital. One of the main figures behind the launch of the lasaret was the regiment barber surgeon Olof Acrel, later a medical doctor, and the surgeon-in-chief of the lasaret. At the same time, several lasarets were established in the Swedish kingdom and in 1776 Olof Acrel became the chief executive of all of them. Through him, a possible upward social mobility is confirmed, but also the importance of the military force for civilian healthcare that gradually took shape. The barber-surgery, whose origins and belongings was in the 17th-century wars, was changing. On one hand, it was about to be competed by medical doctors and, on the other hand, it was about to become a prestigious specialization in medicine science: surgery. Olof Acrel is treat as the father of Swedish surgery and his most famous publications treat surgery areas, for instance the cure of wounds (shot injuries) and the eye disease cataract. In the 1700s, there was a lesser-known struggle on competences, between on one hand, barber-surgeons and medicine doctors, and on the other, midwives. Olof Acrel's contribution to this conflict was an outline of the mother's injuries in mother's womb, where the inheritance of the mother was considered particularly risky, and several of his colleagues in barber-surgery were diligent in obstetrics, as well. The midwives were, however, persistent. When the business regulations were released in the 1860s, the barber-surgery was limited to simpler surgery and then it also opened for women. Sweden's first female barber-surgeon was Johanna Hedén, who was also a midwife. How this changed gender coding went on in practice and under what circumstances the female barber-surgeons worked, is still an open question, and is examined in more detail in my paper.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 140. Health through Different Lenses